Breaking Chains

I raised my hands during worship at church yesterday.

I used to raise my hands all the time, back when I went to church with my family, back before Mom died, but I haven’t since. Not publicly. In my times of private worship I do, but not at church.

The thought of raising my hands publicly, within eyesight of people who know me!, felt terrifying. Vulnerable. An intimate moment between the Lord and I made public.

If you asked me five years ago if I’d ever get scared of raising my hands in church, I’d think you were nuts. And yet, there I was. Terrified of a thing that never used to scare me before.

I don’t know how that happens. How your heart can ache for love, and it seems so innocent and harmless, but it grows. Your desire for love starts to color how you see yourself and others. You analyze their behaviors and try to read their minds and wonder if you’re enough.

All  you need to do is say, “I care what that person/those people think of me,” and Satan takes that and runs with it.

And so you wake up one day and realize that you’re terrified of people, of being seen, and that you’ve become caught up inside yourself that you can’t even be you anymore.

But you don’t know any other way to exist anymore. Fear has taken over.

And you thought what you needed was love, you stood your ground and crossed your arms over your chest and stubbornly said, “I NEED love! People NEED love!” And that’s true. However, you’ve created a prison for yourself- a prison of trying to earn love and prove yourself lovable, and thinking that you simply won’t be able to survive without it.

But as long as you’re there, no amount of love received in that place is going to free you from the fear that has overtaken you. Because a human’s love can’t do that. Only God’s love can set us free.

We MUST find our security in Him alone.

We must be able to say that, even if everything else is ripped away from us–even love–we will be okay because He will never leave us. And He is more than enough for us. He is all we “need”.

And I say that not in a convicting way, but with a tender heart because I KNOW how freaking painful it is to leave everything, even our desire to be loved, at the foot of the cross. It is excruciating.

But oh, how desperate we are as a society to spend more time there, at the foot of the cross, letting the Lord sing over us and remind us that He is the fulfillment of everything our hearts long for. That His love for us is REAL. And that He is ALIVE. And we are never alone.

We need Him in a desperate way. We are too vulnerable when we’re not completely hiding ourselves in Him.

Anyway, back to my story.

So, to recap, I was scared to raise my hands during worship at church.

And yet, I knew that if I held back during worship out of fear of other people, I was making them an idol. And so, even if I was worshiping God with my mouth and my heart, I was also worshiping people in my actions and my mind.

And that thought made me so sad. Because I do love my Jesus! And I don’t want to worship people!

But I felt like a prisoner to my fear of people. And while I sincerely wanted freedom, I didn’t want to have to do anything scary or uncomfortable to get it.

And so I just hoped and prayed that one day the Lord would just free me of my fear. That one day I would just raise my arms and worship Him and it wouldn’t be scary anymore.

But He doesn’t work like that.

I mean, what lesson would that have taught me? He wants to make me more like Jesus, which means that I am going to have to walk through some hard things, not just be delivered from everything.

He is more concerned about renewing my mind and freeing me from the chains that bind me than He is concerned about my comfort.

If He had just taken away my fear of raising my arms in worship, I’d still be bound in other ways. My arms might be lifted, but part of me would still be worshiping people.

I had to make a choice. If I wanted freedom from that fear, I had to CHOOSE Him. I had to choose to care more about worshiping Him than I cared about what people would think.

Even if I was terrified.

And I sensed the Lord saying, “Do you trust Me?”

Did I? Did I trust Him with my fear? With my desire to be loved? To not look like a fool? Did I trust Him enough with my heart to let it be seen? Did I trust Him enough to be vulnerable?

And again, I had to make a choice. I had to choose that yes, I trusted Him. I trusted Him with all of that and more.

And so I mustered all of my courage (literally), and I closed my eyes tight so that I could try to forget that there was anyone else in the room to witness what I was about to do, and I raised my hands.

And it was terrifying in a way beyond even my comprehension. I mean, I knew it was going to be scary, but I hadn’t anticipated that my body would react like it did- I was shaking involuntarily from my fingertips to my knees! I honestly thought I was going to have to sit down because my legs were trembling so badly.

And when I realized how badly I was shaking and that I couldn’t make myself stop, I started to feel REALLY embarrassed because PEOPLE COULD SEE ME, and what if everyone was staring at me?! What if everyone noticed!? And that train of thought didn’t do me any favors. I started to shake worse.

And there I was, my hands in the air, shaking. And embarrassed. But then, much to my own shock, I felt myself start to smile because MY HANDS WERE IN THE AIR! I did it!

And I decided that even if I wasn’t going to be able to stop shaking, I might as well make the most of the fact that my hands were raised! If people could see, they could see. The damage was already done. And so I turned my thoughts back to the One who deserved my worship.

And as I worshiped, as I kept my eyes closed and focused on the face of my Jesus, I stopped shaking.

There’s power in offering yourself as a sacrifice during worship- surrendering pride an fear and choosing instead to worship freely and openly- because He deserves it.

I raised my arms on Saturday and something broke. A chain. And I really think some of that fear was spiritual. I was fighting a battle. Because logically, it shouldn’t have been that scary. And losing control of my body like that was bizarre.

Before I had raised my hands, when the Lord was asking if I trusted Him, I also sensed Him asked me if I wanted to be free. It’s a good question. Do I want to be free?

Do I want to be free from all the things that have me bound and chained to a life that is less than what He wants for me? Am I willing to do scary things to get free? Am I willing to say, “I don’t care what anyone thinks of me. I give up trying to make myself be loved. I trust You with all of it.”? Am I willing to make the conscious decision, over and over and over again, to exalt Him above everything else- people, fear, my heartache?

Yes.

Because I know that there is no life any other way.

I can stand there with my arms at my sides and worship Him with my mouth, but that isn’t going to make me any more lovable. It’s not going to get me any closer to where I want to be in relationships with people. All it’s going to do is ensure that I stay bound, living in a life of fear, worshiping things other than my God.

I deserve better than that.

HE deserves better than that.

I think yesterday’s worship service was the most important one of my life. Because I chose the Lord.

I jumped. And I shook. And I was terrified.

But then He caught me. And I smiled. And I felt His love flood my heart. And I stopped shaking.

I have to choose to do what I can, and then trust Him with the rest.

I have to surrender outcomes. I have to surrender everything I cannot control.

And I have to choose to walk in faith, to live like I believe that Scripture is Truth.

I couldn’t control my shaking or how many people noticed or what people thought.

But I could choose to raise my hands. I could choose to say to my heart and my mind, “NO. We only serve one God, and that is Jesus Christ.”

And whatever happens from there, from the time I thrust my arms heavenward, that’s up to Him.

But He promises to catch us.

He beckons us to do scary things, asking, “Do you trust Me?”

And really, no matter how scary it is, there’s nothing scarier than choosing to stay captive to something that will ultimately rob you of the fullness of life God wants for you.

For example, today I moved quickly and my bunny, Penny, jumped up and ran away. She is the sweetest, most affectionate bunny, but she is incredibly skittish. And every time I forget that and move too quickly and she runs from me, it hurts my heart.

I wish she could know that she doesn’t have to be afraid of me- not ever. That I would never hurt her.

And so I told her that.

And as I was talking to her, I sensed that the Lord could say the exact same thing to me. How often do I get caught up fearing things that I don’t need to be afraid of? How often do I live like I don’t trust Him? How often do I forget that He won’t hurt me?

Oh Jesus, help me continue to do the scary thing. Help me continue to choose You. I pray for freedom. For fullness of life. Break away the chains that bind me, Lord, as I run to You.

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When Sadness Becomes Your God

I laughed at work today. The kind of laugh you laugh when something is funny but you’re also kind of embarrassed and so you can’t stop laughing.

The office manager had come into my office this morning with donuts and he asked, “Would you like a diet doughnut?”

But that wasn’t what I heard.

And so I asked him, “…Did you ask if I wanted to buy a doughnut?”

And he laughed and told me what he had actually said, and I laughed too.

And I know it’s silly and not even that funny, but later while I was driving I thought about that and I sat there in my car at a red light and smiled. Alone.

And then I realized I was smiling, and how incredible that I have enough joy within me to smile- and not just to smile, but to smile for me.

No one else was around. I wasn’t smiling to keep up appearances or make other people feel good and I wasn’t even smiling about something that someone else said or did. I was smiling, without even realizing it, because the joy within me bubbled up and a smile is just a human’s automatic reaction to feeling your heart fill with lightness.

I was alone. And I was smiling.

And usually when I’m alone I struggle. I battle all sort of thoughts and feeling and it’s fierce and exhausting and scary and I have to live that time in a constant inward posture of being on my knees at the cross.

But that moment alone in my car was easy.

I was surprised by my smile, yes, but even more than that, I was surprised to find that I was actually just enjoying my own company.

And I turned to Jesus and said, “Do you see this, Lord? I’m smiling!” And I know He was smiling too because yes, of course He saw.

And yesterday on my walk, I cried. I walked and walked and at one point I felt my chin begin to shake and my eyes filled with tears and I just let it happen. Because I was safe. It was safe to feel, walking alone down that neighborhood street as the sun set, with Truth coming through my earbuds and into my soul. It was safe. And important.

And I got home and I was tired. It wasn’t even 9:00 yet, but I showered and went to my room and I slept. I slept really well.

And that’s life, isn’t it? To make space for yourself to exist as a person with physical and emotional and spiritual needs, and not just as a doer- the one responsible for getting out of bed in the morning to an alarm and making it through your to-do list for the day.

I’m having to consciously take care of myself in this season. I don’t have another choice. I have to over and over again sit my heart down and say, “You matter.”

My job matters, yes, but that’s an easy fact to accept. The world won’t try to convince you that your job doesn’t matter because your job is how you get paid and keep a roof over your head. And I’m blessed to have my job matter for much deeper reasons than that. But still, believing my job matters isn’t the struggle because my job is where I am a doer. And doers, productivity, those things always count as far as society is concerned.

It’s the heart stuff, the feelings and experiences that the world shrugs at. Because it’s there that you are just you, not as a doer but as a human being.

And if you wait for the world to say, “Yes, that thing you experienced? It matters! And the things you’re feeling? They matter too!” you might be waiting a long time.

And even if you’re lucky enough to have someone in your life to say those things matter, as I am, having someone to validate your pain is only one of the steps in healing it.

And there’s danger in that, too, I’ve come to learn. Wanting people to validate your pain isn’t a bad thing, I don’t think, but it can become a hiding place. A source of comfort. And when that happens, you keep running back for the reminder that it mattered.

And that makes people tired. And it makes them sad because they love you and they don’t want you to get stuck in that place of self-pity, of needing them to take care of you. And so at some point you have to tell yourself that it mattered, it MATTERS, but other things matter as well.

And that’s when the Lord mercifully will open your eyes to Joy.

It’s not entirely up to me to know how to balance Joy and Sadness, because He is a good Father. And indeed, He is my Father. I am an adult and I am a child, His child. And I don’t always know what’s best for me or how to cope. But He does. He seems to know how much Sadness I can take, and when I keep my eyes open and my heart soft, He also surprises me with Joy. Joy rushes in like a Labrador Retriever puppy.

And Sadness? It used to feel like a heavy wool blanket, but not anymore. Sadness, when it arrives, sits down beside me and places a hand on my knee, offering me a small measure of comfort even in the midst of its presence. With its hand on my knee, it reminds me, “I’m not here to hurt you.”

Sadness? It’s work. It’s spiritual warfare, and healing the brokenness within me, and grieving what was lost and what isn’t and what may never be. It’s work. And if I try to stuff it down and ignore it, or if I run to other people and grasp onto them like a drowning person, pulling them down too, then I’m missing the lesson in the sadness.

Sometimes Sadness requires professional help or medication, yes. And we DO need people. But ultimately, our sadness is between us and the Lord. We have to learn to sit with it rather than run from it or hide beneath it in surrender.

I’ve used that word a lot lately- surrender. And oh, what a mistake I’ve made (and still struggle not to make) when I’ve surrendered to anything other than the Lord- when I’ve surrender to Sadness, or Fear, or my hopes, or other people. How many times I’ve exalted a thing above the Lord.

It’s so imperative, not just because He is Lord, but also for our own well-being, that we keep Jesus on the throne. It is to Him that we must surrender.

And when Sadness comes and the Lord is on the throne, it doesn’t come as a blanket. When I let the Lord use my sadness, when I trust Him with it, Sadness almost comes as a friend. Gentle. Tender. Apologetic. It exists for a reason, after all, and it’s my job to allow it to sit down beside me when it comes.

It’s much easier to sit side-by-side with Sadness than to allow it to cover me like a blanket. And that’s what happens when you don’t make room for Sadness to sit down when it arrives. It becomes a wool blanket.

At first it comes uninvited, and you struggle to crawl out from beneath it, but you can’t. And so you give up. And it’s easy, tempting even, to say, “Okay. Come. And I’ll hide under here because nothing is fair and I can’t fix it and I quit.” Because Sadness is on the throne now and you can’t see anything but the darkness or feel anything but the weight of it on top of you.

One way or another, the matters of your heart will demand your attention.

But if you listen. If you remember that you’re Someone’s child and that your Father is the Ruler and Creator of all, you’ll hear the Lord gently beckon, “Bring that to me.”

For me, Sadness comes with most force when I’m alone with my heart, not being my Doer self, and without anyone to say that my heart, or that I, matter. And I have to tell Sadness, “Yes, you can come, but my Lord is still on the throne, so have a seat beside me please. I’m not going to hide beneath you, curled up, bowed down to you as if you’re bigger than my God.”

And then I have to sit my heart down, me and Sadness side-by-side and Joy panting at my feet–not demanding my attention but still there, present, breathing–and I have to tell my heart, “Yes, we know. It hurts. And it’s going to take time to feel better. Let’s go for a walk. Let’s smile at the rising moon and the setting sun and breathe deeply. And if you need to cry, if you need to talk about what you’re feeling, that’s okay. The Lord will listen. We’ll all listen. We’re not afraid of big emotions or circumstances beyond our control because the Lord will be there with us, rising the moon and setting the sun and reminding us that He’s bigger than anything. He’s bigger than Sadness and Circumstances and He is the author of Joy. And He’s bigger than you, too, Heart. In this world we’re a tangle of emotions and thoughts and it’s hard, but it won’t always be this hard. And we don’t have to be afraid. When it’s hard, we just have to admit it, accept it, and surrender it to the Lord for Whom nothing is hard.”

I am my Father’s child.

And I am the parent of my heart.

I am both child and adult.

I am Sadness and I am Joy.

And that’s okay.

Balance And Spinning

It’s a tough thing, I think, to process without overthinking.

To feel sorrow without feeling despair.

To put experiences in the past and keep them there, even when you’re asleep and dreaming.

To love people, to even need them, without being dependent on them, without making them your god.

There is a balance to everything in life. And it’s tricky to navigate.

If you give a voice to your emotions, to the things you think you need, the balance is bound to get thrown off. You’ll swing to the left or right, grasping at whatever thing it is you think will provide you the relief, the healing, the wholeness you ache for.

It never works, though. You can’t find lasting relief, healing, or wholness apart from God.

And so you have to come to Him. To humbly come, to come in brokenness and defeat, and admit you cannot do it apart from Him, that everything you’ve held so tight to you’re handing back to Him. You’re entrusting Him with everything that hurts- the things from past that haunt you, the sorrows of the present, the fears of the future.

After all, you have no other option. You’ve tried to do it without Him. It didn’t work. And so you surrender.

And in your surrender, you find that you’re safe in a way you’ve never been before. You’re not trying to hold anything together, so you’re free to be honest with yourself about the state of your heart and authentic with others. You’re free to live without feeling responsible for the outcome of every single decision you make.

When you surrender, you commit yourself to listening only to the voice of the One to whom you’ve given control. You have handed Him your pain and hopes and fears, and in exchange you cling tight to the promises in Scripture and get to know your Father’s heart for you.

And you learn your emotions, while important, do not get to dictate what is true. When sadness tries to tell you it’s never leaving, you don’t have to listen. When the child in you feels unloved because there’s no one there at night to tuck her in, you can sit her down and point her to the Jesus who never leaves our sides. When despair tries to get you to give up or panic tries to get you to take back control, you can remind them that your God is bigger than anything that can come against you and that victory has already been won. You stand firm. You stand firm on what is True. And you surrender.

And you find that it’s easier to sit with your pain, to admit you hurt and that you don’t know how it’s going to be okay without getting suffocated by panic, when you are able to trust the God who loves you fiercely.

He knows the places I hurt. And He knows, even better than I do, WHY I hurt. He knows why my pain is significant and what I think will help and what will actually help. He knows what I hope for and dream about and fear and what areas within me need healing.

And I can trust Him.

I don’t have to plan or over-think.

I don’t have to stuff my emotions, afraid they’ll drown me with their “it’s always going to be like this, it’s never going to get better!” lies.

I battle my thoughts CONSTANTLY. And when controlling my thoughts doesn’t help the ache within me dissipate, I talk about it with God. I bring Him my pain. I trade Him my sorrow for His hope. I trade in my fear for His peace. And when I still can’t seem to keep my thoughts from running full-speed into doors in my mind that I’ve closed, refusing to allow entrance to, and when I feel my body start to fill with that familiar panic, I go for a walk. I go for lots of walks lately.

I hurt.

And it’s okay. It doesn’t have to be scary. God is near to the broken-hearted. And He saves. He saves and He redeems and He battles for us and He has GOOD THINGS in store for those who love Him. And when my sadness tries to convince me otherwise, I point to the irrefutable truths found in Scripture.

And you know what I’ve found? The more I allow myself to accept the fact that I’m sad, the more I’m able to cry when I need to, and the more I’m able to laugh and find joy in the things that are just plain good in life. I can hold my sadness and my joy side-by-side. They can coexist. They make room for each other. Joy flips on a light in the dark of Sadness and the shadows on the walls that looked like monsters in the dark disappear. And Joy holds Sadness’ hand and tells Sadness it’s okay to feel. It doesn’t have to be scary. And she won’t go anywhere.

“You’re welcome here,” Joy says to Sadness. “You don’t have to be afraid you’ll grow so big that nothing else will exist, not even oxygen, because I’m here and I occupy this space too, and so when you feel like you’re going to expand and expand and just keep growing until nothing else can exist in this place, I’ll still be here. And I’ll make you laugh. Just watch. In the middle of your tears, I’ll whisper to you, I’ll keep pointing you to the light, to the beauty of this life, and you’ll smile, and you’ll shrink back down.”

A friend of mine has chronic pain. She can’t do any of the things she used to enjoy doing, and she’s grieving that. She’s grieving the fact that life as she knew it, the things she used to love and enjoy and that gave meaning to her life, they might be over. She is sad. Really, really sad. But you know what else she is? Grateful. “I can’t kayak anymore,” she said, “or play my guitar, or go for walks, but there’s still so much I can do. I can laugh and make jokes and be with the people I love.”

She then went on to say that her favorite thing to do right now is drive around with her girlfriend and look at places they might someday like to live. “We can’t afford any of them, but it makes us smile to dream,” she said.

Her words struck my heart as being poignant in the most brutiful (beautiful/brutal) way.

We should all allow ourselves that- room to mourn the ways our lives don’t look the way we thought they would, room to grieve our losses, and room to be grateful for what IS, to hold in our hearts the promises of Scripture and HOPE.

We need to embrace with open arms the good that lies before us. No matter how we ache, there is so much good. We cannot let our pain over the things we don’t have make us blind to the things we do have.

And you know what else we should allow ourselves? The freedom to dream. To dream big dreams.

To imagine ourselves living in big houses with children running up and down the stairs and kicking soccer balls and breaking lamps and having tickle fights before bed with your husband and slurping spaghetti and playing fetch with the dog.

We need to let ourselves imagine traveling the world and preaching the gospel to people and cultures so different from our own. Kissing babies with skin the color of coffee and holding tight to hands that are wrinkled, with skin as fragile and thin as tissue paper.

Or we let ourselves dream of owning a farm, collecting eggs every morning and milking cows and being able to tell the time by the position of the sun in the sky and having Hunter rubber boots sitting by the front door and drinking tea on the wrap-around porch as the sun sets in the evening.

We need to let ourselves dream like children do, without any fear that our dreams won’t happen. Children dream without expectation. They dream because it’s FUN to dream, not because they need their dream to give them a reason to live.

It doesn’t scare children to consider what if their dreams never came to pass because they shrug and figure there’s another, even better dream worth dreaming. Kids dreams because it makes them feel alive, it awakens them to the fact that this world, this life, has infinite possibilities and options and there are always dreams to dream.

Kids live with arms flung open wide, spinning in circles, looking up at the sky, and smiling. They don’t fear getting dizzy. They don’t worry if they look goofy. They don’t talk themselves out of spinning because there’s “no point”; nothing productive will come from it.

Kids can teach us so much about how to live. How to grieve for the night but allow ourselves to taste joy in the morning. I think that’s easier for children to accomplish, not because they’re young and naive, unaware of how hard the world is, although that too is true, but because they have their trust, their hope in everything turning out okay, in someone other than themselves. They aren’t trying to maintain control or hold anything together. They don’t have to panic about the things that go wrong or the sadness they feel because they trust that their parents will fix it. Nothing can stay bad because they’re someone’s child and they’re loved and their parents can make anything better.

I want to live like that- my arms thrown open wide, spinning. And maybe I’ll be laughing or maybe tears will be streaming down my cheeks, but either way my head will be tilted towards heaven- love for my Father beating wildly in my heart and trust in Him bringing peace to my soul.

A “Scrapbook” Post

A “scrapbook” post- random bits and pieces cut and pasted and glued together to create a picture of my life right now.

*

Everything is disjointed. Pixilated. Smoke and fog. Not tangible and real.

The only tangible, real thing right now, the only thing I know that I know that I know, is Scripture.

There’s nothing else to grab tight to. Everything else is a question mark. Real or unreal, a lie or a truth, a blessing or broken, and I don’t know which.

So I hold it up to Scripture, and I realize that so much of what I don’t know doesn’t really matter, because what I do know is that God is good and He has a plan and I don’t have to have all the answers.

I don’t have to turn every possible scenario over in my mind, trying to force it to come together and make sense to me.

I don’t have to attempt to plumb the depths of my loved ones’ minds or analyze their actions.

I don’t have to go through my life with a fine-tooth comb trying to figure out whether or not I really belong anywhere.

All I have to do is breathe and trust, and guard my mind and heart fiercely. Yes, I will stand guard against lies and I will turn those lies away with one word: Jesus.

*

I was watching Eat, Pray, Love the other day and one of the characters in the movie told the main character, Liz, “You have to pick your thoughts like you pick out your clothes each day.”

Admittedly, that’s not a super great analogy for me because I wear leggings and flip-flops as much as possible, but I understood what he was saying. He was saying that our thoughts are as much in our control, and deserve at least as much attention and consideration, as our outfits.

In response to him, Liz said, “I’m trying!”

Yeah! I thought. She’s TRYING! Cut the girl some slack! What do you think she’s doing there, out of her comfort zone, exhausted?! Can’t you see how hard this has been for her?!

But then he put us both in our place, leaving our mouths hanging open with a combination of outrage and an inability to argue with his logic. Because how do you argue with truth? You don’t. You just sit down and shut up, or stand there with your mouth ajar and scowling at the truth-teller’s audacity to truth-tell right to your face when you’re having an emotional moment.

“Stop trying!” he said. “That’s your problem! Stop trying! Surrender! Fall into trust!”

I can’t remember if that’s exactly how their conversation went, word-for-word, but that was the gist of it. And after my mouth closed, I smiled. Because Liz and I, we’re not that different. Maybe she traveled the world chasing after romance and pasta, and I sit at home with my cats and pray for family and love, but we’re both people. We’re both people under the incredibly false illusion that our brokenness can be fixed by trying more or harder or even at all. Because to say that, to say that it just takes effort, is to say we have control over our brokenness. And we don’t. We have no control.

And I marvel at how God can speak to me through a movie that I was only half-watching, how He even loves me enough to speak to me! And how effectively He was able to get my attention, saying as the scene in the movie progressed, “THIS IS FOR YOU. Put down your book and your tea and pay attention for a minute.”

I’ve said that a lot over the past few months: “I’m trying.” “I’ve tried so hard.” And maybe that’s been my problem all along. Maybe what I was trying so hard to do was FIX, when what I should’ve been trying to do was surrender, trust, accept that this is the way things are right now. Sit with the pain of it and allow God to give me eyes of gratitude and hope and joy in the midst of heart-heaviness.

I was trying the wrong thing. I was trying to take control when what the Lord wanted of me was to put the control back in His hands and rest in the knowledge that He is good even when I’m struggling to look at my life and call it good.

*

“I bring You my heart, I bring you my praise
I bring You my broken dreams I’ve lost along the way
I lift up my voice, I lift up my hands
I lift up the moments in my life that I don’t understand
And I lay it at the cross where I’m surrounded by Your grace
And I marvel at the wonder of Your love
And I stand amazed, I stand in awe
And I stand forgiven in the midst of it all
Before You I bow, before You I fall
Blessed Redeemer, Sweet Savior of all
You are my shelter, You are my King
You are the risen Son of God, the Lord of everything.”

*

I watched Toy Story 3 the other day too.

I related to the toys in a whole new way than I would’ve a month or two ago. I was emotionally invested.

Lotso? He’s the staff at the various facilities I’ve been to as of late. He’s pink and cuddly and smells like strawberries, and everyone thinks he’s so nice and helpful and such a good leader, but he’s not.

Buzz on demo mode? He’s my friends. Suddenly I didn’t recognize them, and they’d have said the same thing about me.

I watched, eyes peeled, desperate to see how this was all going to turn out for them–for us. It was OUR battle. Our shared battle. Separate, but parallel. I related. I knew how it felt to have the doors locked, to be misunderstood. To be entrusted to Lotso by the friends who you no longer know how to relate to. I know the terror of having no options or control or escape.

When I was in treatment, the only thing apart from my Bible that gave me even the slightest relief from my inability to breathe–(just typing that, remembering what it was like, is making my body feel tense and hot; it was truly the most terrible experience of my life)–was looking outside. I’d sit on the windowsill and watch people go to work and I was SO jealous. And also so comforted. It reminded me that there was a life out there, that there was fresh air and freedom and that even if I was trapped and panicked, there was more to life than what I was currently experiencing.

And I thought about how my life, with its various sorrows and disappointments, was SO much better than I had ever given it credit for. Being locked up with Lotso and not knowing if Buzz would ever look me in the eyes again with love and respect and recognition and hug me, that was excruciating. It made me fiercely miss everything I had been so desperate to run away from just days prior.

In the movie, Mr. Potato Head has a similar change of perspective. “You know all the bad stuff I said about having to live in Andy’s attic?” he asks. “I take it all back.”

Me too, Mr. PH. Me too.

*

“I felt like I was spinning.
Didn’t know what was up from down.
I tried to fix what I had broken.
It was scattered all around.
It seems that every time I try walking by myself,
I end up on my face with nowhere else to go.
So I surrender all my ways.
Take all of these impurities.
I’m giving you this wretched soul.
I’m giving you these insecurities…
Giving you all control.
I’d set myself up for the lies that this world satisfies,
But you’re all that I need.
And I have peace inside
So keep tearing out all of my pride.
I’m taking all my fears and layin’ em at your feet now.
I’m resting in the fact that everything is safe now,
When I let go of all the things I know will fade out.
Every word that you have said I know I’ll never doubt.
Purify this tainted soul
I’m tired of living life a fool
Soften up this heart in clay
To be a servant this I pray
A reflection of You I long to be
So Your kingdom I will see
I Surrender to Your throne
And I will make my heart Your home
Oh I Surrender to Your throne.”

*

I love Glennon. I love that she gives people permission to be a mess. She assigns meaning to the messiness, and purpose to our pain. And she helps me believe in a person’s ability to triumph.

Click!

*

I had a dream the other night that I had moved into a new house with my mom. She was still alive. It was just the two of us in my dream. We were walking through the house together, looking at all the rooms and nooks and crannies. The house, I realize now that I’m awake, was a bigger version of my childhood home.

My dream self was excited because the house had so many windows. I kept saying that in my dream how I loved all the windows. The house was flooded with sunlight. I just kept going from window to window to see what view they each provided and reporting back to Mom.

In dreams, looking out a window is representative of looking to the future.

“To dream of looking out a window represents insight into what’s happening or your outlook for the future. Seeing ahead or what you feel is going to happen. It may also reflect your hopes for what is about to come.”

Yes. That. Hope. I have hope. And it’s such a miracle. It makes me want to giggle just thinking about how incredible it is that the Lord has fostered a hope in me that I was lacking for so long.

I have hope and I want to laugh. And what’s even more striking about all of this, this unshakable hope and joy that only the Lord can provide, is that I was just crying. Sobbing. Heartbroken over something in my life unrelated to this post.

But now here I am, smiling about the hope I have.

And it’s beautiful. It’s so beautiful that we can cry AND laugh.

We can grieve AND hope.

*

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.  So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.  Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” -James 1:2-4

I had never read The Message version of that verse before, and this line stood out to me: “Don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.”

How much in my life have I done just that? With any negative emotion, with any painful experience, I tried to fix it. I tried to make it better, make it go away.

Above I talked about how hard I’d tried for so long, and how I had been trying the wrong thing. I had been trying to fix instead of trying to trust.

And isn’t that exactly what this Scripture is cautioning against? Of course if you CAN fix something, that’s great, do it! But if you can’t? And so, in response you decide instead to just take matters into your own hands, looking for other ways to make it not hurt? Denial or drugs or working long hours or drinking large quantities of booze? Well, what this Scripture is saying is that if you try to escape the pain, you are also escaping the lesson. And the pain doesn’t really go away. Rather, you only create for yourself even more pain.

I am learning to sit with pain instead of panic about it and do whatever I can to make it go away. I can’t even begin to tell you how hard that lesson has been for me.

But the more I let myself feel my pain? The more I can also feel joy.

And the more I trust in the Lord? The more I stop trying so hard and just rest? The less my pain scares me.

Nothing is bigger than my Jesus. Nothing.

*

I liked this blog. Wanted to share.

*

Goodnight. 🙂

Questions And Answers

Sometimes I feel like my list of what I don’t know is so much longer than my list of what I do know. Maybe there’s power in accepting that to be true, not just for me, but for anyone alive. Maybe it’s when we think we have things figured out that we end up in trouble.

I’m trying to stay in the moment. Amidst this season of not knowing, I am trying to soak up what I do know–what is good–and hand the rest to God under the assurance that He sees hope where I see question marks.

And He keeps in perfect peace those whose minds are focused on Him.

Anything that tries to rob me of my peace right now, I hand to my Jesus. I’ll do the hard stuff- I’ll do the work, learn the lessons, and grow. But I can do all of that, I can hurt and cry, without having it rob me of my peace or my hope. As long as I keep giving it to Him and as long as, when I close my eyes, I allow myself to picture His face and not my perceived (or actual) problems.

Jesus is with me
and I’m His child
and He knows what He’s doing.

I don’t have to give in to fear or despair or panic because no matter what comes my way, no matter what consequences I might have to endure, I won’t be doing it on my own. I can trust all of my question marks with the God who loves me.

*

There’s a lot that isn’t marred by consequences right now, too. There’s a lot that is just GOOD. (Praise Jesus!)

When someone hugs me or laughs with me, I don’t question it. I don’t wonder what they’re thinking or try to evaluate the fragility of the good thing before me. I just embrace it. I hug back. I let the laughter cause me to throw my head back. And I thank the Lord that, even though there’s a lot that is broken, that isn’t.

Tonight I played on a playground. I got dizzy on a spinning toy and played on swings and went down slides, and when the sprinklers came on, I ran through them laughing for at least a half an hour until I collapsed, soaking wet, on the grass. There’s a lot I don’t know, but I know that God watched me play tonight and he was smiling. Not everything is broken. The Lord is sustaining me.

Life is a gift.

*

I keep having nightmares. I think my subconscious is trying to process the trauma and tragedy (and miracles!) of the past month.

I had a dream I was in Sudan and the military was storming into the building where I was hiding because they were going to shoot anyone who was white. I was laying face-down on the ground with Sudanese people and I was praying for a miracle. I was praying my life would be spared. And I felt the boot of a military man step on my back, and I knew any second he was going to shoot me, and I pivoted. In a last-ditch effort to stay alive, I moved to face him and beg him not to shoot me. And I woke up mid-pivot. I woke up flinging myself from my stomach to my back and begging for my life.

I also had a dream I was in Hawaii and I really wanted to swim. The water was blue and warm and I was dying to jump in, but I was scared of sharks. Everyone was assuring me that I’d be fine, that people swim in Hawaii all the time without getting attacked by sharks, but I was too scared. And I felt so frustrated with myself because I had this opportunity presented to me to do something fun–something life-giving–and I was too scared of what could go wrong.

And I dreamed I was somewhere, I don’t know where, but I think I was with people from church, and the floor kept giving out. The foundation of the place where we were was precarious, and you couldn’t tell if where you were about to step would be solid or if it would collapse beneath you and threaten to pull you down into the murky water below. Everyone else seemed to know where to step, but I didn’t, and so I was asking for help. They knew better than I how to navigate the unstable floor, and even as the building continued to fall down and crumble around us, they didn’t panic. I had no choice but to surrender and let them help guide me to a place of safety. I just had to step and hope.

*

I am standing firm in truth.

I am embracing (out of necessity) humility.

And I am surrendering (also out of necessity) all to God.

I am done trying to force my life and relationships look or feel a certain way. I am breathing through the hard stuff and finding that surrender brings peace. When I surrender what I cannot control (and accept that I cannot control it!) to our loving God, I can let go of trying to force things to be different from what they are.

God has a good plan. I don’t have to be afraid.

I am still Someone’s child.

And so, rather than trying to control things and battle the inevitable resulting panic, I am making obedience my focus instead. I will stand firm in truth. That I CAN do.

And I will leave the healing and heart-work to God.

It’s all so hard. But at least my focus is finally right- not on trying to fix things (myself, relationships, my life) that are beyond my ability to fix, but on loving the Lord and taking Him at His Word.

*

I had another dream. I was writing on a whiteboard for a class, writing the numbers 1 through 10 in preparing to make a list. I was going to survey the class and ask them to volunteer what God’s been doing in their lives. The first thing I wrote, however, which isn’t really even an answer to the question I was supposed to be asking, was “receive”.

I woke up after writing that on the board, and I suspect that was God’s message to me. Receive.

He has so much He wants to do, I just have to be willing to receive, to walk this through, even when it’s hard, and to trust that He sees more than I do- He sees the good that will come from all of the pain. He can use this for good in my life, and maybe even in the lives of the people I’ve hurt. That is my prayer.

Lord, prepare my heart to hear from You. Help me to obey. Help me to receive whatever you have for me.

*

This week I keep hearing and reading that freedom in our lives is tied to giving God proper authority. Where God reigns in our lives, we can claim freedom. I want to allow, once again, God to to be Lord of every area of my life.

*

A quote:

“‘How do  you see me, God?’ isn’t a question we really need to ask when the world treats us as we feel we deserve.”

Everything that’s broken? It’s forcing me to run to God. To get His opinion. To let Him hold me. To accept His loving guidance.

I’m actually grateful for that.

I’m sad for the brokenness, but grateful for how the Lord is using it.

*

I’m so, so grateful for all the things that aren’t broken. They scream to me that God is big and He loves me, and He desires to give me good gifts even when I’ve really, really messed up.

Everything that’s still in tact, everything that is effortlessly good, it’s a miracle. A hug from the Father who loves me fiercely and is going to see me through this.

I am thankful for:
Being home.
My church.
Love- even “tough love”.
That God will never, ever leave me.
The ability to learn.
The ability to cry.
My pets.
Children.
Hugs.
Glennon.
A job, a house, and a car. And wifi. 😉
That my needs are met.
That I don’t have to hold anything together.
Laughter.

*

Also, this blog post is beautiful. (Click!)

His

For the first time in a while, I opened up the Instagram app on my phone tonight. I posted quotes and pictures and things that have brought comfort to my soul over the last few days. And then I scrolled through the most recent pictures other people have posted. I only made it to picture five before I couldn’t scroll any further. I deleted the pictures I had just posted and I closed the app.

This time I’m in, it’s fragile and tender and sacred. And I need to protect that by keeping a firm boundary between the life I was living and where I’m at now. I will return to Instagram someday, but right now is a holy time. A painful time, but one in which the Lord’s breath is the very air I’m breathing, and to interrupt this time with hashtags and social media and “likes” feels wrong.

This is a holy time.

This last week has been perhaps the most traumatic one of my life. I don’t know when or how I’ll ever process everything. And that’s the beauty of this time, as well: I am not trying to figure it out. I am not resisting the “not knowing”. I am not resisting anything at all. Instead, I am trying to maintain a state of being completely surrendered to the Lord. I am trusting Him with all of it- with the broken relationships, with the brokenness within me, with my hopes and fears.

For once, my focus is right. It isn’t on others- trying to make them love me, constantly fearing the loss of that love, and subconsciously believing that their love will somehow save me. My focus isn’t on fixing myself- looking at who I was and who I want to be and who I am now. And my focus isn’t on fixing my life- panicking over my lack of solutions and labeling parts of my life as “un-fixable”.

Rather, my focus is on the Lord. I am, to the best of my ability, spending my days with my face nestled against His chest, memorizing the beat of His heart.

This is a holy, sacred time.

Real life will resume, but right now I’m fragile, newborn. I need to carve aside this time to be His. I need to assert that this is an important time and that what I’ve lived through the past week is significant, and then I need to dedicate this time to Him. And I need to use this time to allow God to permanently imprint on me, to tattoo on my heart, that truth- that I belong to Him.

Apart from the love of the Lord, there is nothing else I can count on to be unchanging. And contrary to what I used to think, that doesn’t have to be a sad or scary thought because I know who my Father is and He is GOOD. He provides. And hallelujah that, no matter what life may bring, I am always going to be beloved, understood, and delighted in! My heartache and victories and desires will always, always matter.

There is nowhere else I can go to find solid ground for my feet or the unfailing love I crave. And that’s not scary or sad either. Rather, it’s beautiful because it means I don’t have to seek love or security. I don’t have to walk around wide-eyed and desperate and grasping, begging things that aren’t God to please promise me they will be the reliable, unchanging love and security I need. I am going to be a bottomless pit of need that no one can ever fill unless I realize that what I need is found first an foremost in my Lord and Savior. And again, that’s beautiful because it means that life isn’t a scavenger hunt for the things that my soul craves. Rather, all I need is found in Him alone and He is right here, always with me, beside me, within me.

Even if everything else turns to ash, I will be His and He will be mine forever and ever.

On Christ the Solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

Lord, teach me.

This is a holy, hard, tearful, beautiful, painful, sacred time.